Afghan leader challenges Taliban "brothers" over attacks

Tue Apr 17, 2012 9:50am EDT
 
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By Amie Ferris-Rotman

KABUL (Reuters) - President Hamid Karzai called the Taliban "brothers" on Tuesday and reached out to them to do more for the good of the country after the insurgents carried out multiple attacks in Kabul and elsewhere at the weekend

The deadly strikes on parliament, Kabul's diplomatic quarter and three provinces, had only prolonged the foreign presence in Afghanistan reviled by the Taliban, and hurt economic and security confidence, Karzai said.

"You did nothing for Islam, you did not work for Afghanistan's independence and you did not work for its people, freedom and development," he said in a speech commemorating almost 150 years since the birth of an Afghan reformer, but aimed squarely at the insurgency.

"You worked to prolong a foreign presence, you gave foreigners an excuse to stay," Karzai said.

Clashes raged for 18 hours before Afghan security forces backed by NATO killed the insurgents in a dawn raid. Thirty-five insurgents were killed along with 11 members of the Afghan security forces and four civilians.

But in an effort to keep alive reconciliation with the Taliban and hopes of a peace deal before most foreign combat troops leave the country in 2014, Karzai said he would not stop calling the Talib "brothers".

"Some criticize me in the Afghan government and media for saying the Taliban are brothers, but I won't give up," he said to loud applause from officials and university students.

The Taliban in March said they were suspending peace talks with the United States and a plan to open an office in the Gulf state of Qatar to smooth negotiations, accusing Washington of double-dealing over confidence-building measures including the release of insurgents from a U.S. military prison in Cuba.   Continued...

 
Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a gathering in Kabul April 17, 2012. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani